Okay, so just to put it out in the universe: I'm trying to shorten my reviews, so hopefully they'll stop looking and reading like miniature book reports (can I blame college? Yes? Please?).
**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**
"My mama became a catfish when I was two, on the day I stopped talking."
Neglected since birth by her mother, Irina Myshko hasn’t spoken a word for most of her short Soviet life. Outcast as a mute idiot and abused by her mother's boyfriends, she escapes into an alternate reality where true natures show and people are revealed as the beasts they are. Pregnant, homeless, and penniless, Irina has to make a choice — learn to live in this splintered world or descend into madness.(source:goodreads)
Narrative-The point of view of this book cannot be named as primarily one thing or another, because it's split pretty evenly between two:
First, there's the first-person POV of Irina Myshko as she struggles through her life. Second, there's a switch to the third-person point of view of a mouse as it fights against a series of predatory animals. The effect is pretty incredible: Irina sees every person she meets as some kind of animal, and she associates herself with a mouse. Therefore, the flips between points of view are Irina's way of making sense of the world.
The effect is pretty...brutal. And terrifying. And it's actually a really interesting way to tell the story.
Plot-This book follows the mute Irina as she runs away from home, pregnant, and basically just tries to survive out on the streets of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, her mind and imagination work overtime, occasionally cutting in and blurring the lines between reality and her own nightmares. This calls for an extremely surreal world that I thought Anske pulled off really well without being confusing. It's not only easy to follow, but it's full of excitement (and not really in a good way).
In the meantime, Irina meets a young actor who takes her in, but the problem, there, is that he's the target of a series of attacks by a hate group (basically: the Nazis). So while Irina is trying to come to grips with what's happened to her in her past and where she's going with her future, she's also trying to keep her new friend safe, because her visions that turn the world into one populated by animals gives her an extra-sensitive set of senses that alert her to danger.
It's not necessarily fast-paced, but it's definitely one of those books that explores the beast inside the human mind.
Characters-I'm only going to talk about the character of Irina, because her role is so huge in the novel, and so brutal, that I think she's the one you really need to pay attention to (I mean, she's the main character and the narrator, but still).
Irina's troubled. She has fits of madness, and fits of intense rage (against her family), but she's also capable of great love. The trick is really figuring out where she fits in the world, and though her voice is so strong and her character is so admirable (well, I thought she was mostly admirable), by the end of the novel I couldn't help but question her sanity. I feel like she's a great example of a character whose ideas of justice might be slightly marred, preferring to dole out her own punishments (which gets her in trouble).
She's very dark, yet her voice rings with a kind of truth that you don't want to believe, but you still know that it's slightly true.
It's very different, and it's one of those books that's so dark and human that you want to look away, but you can't stop turning the page until you read the very last word.
Final Answer: 4.33 / 5
Want a dark, beastly, and surreal read? IRKADURA @kseniaanske. You won't regret it. Read the review via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)
Brutal and beautiful. IRKADURA @kseniaanske earns more than four stars from blogger @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)